New paper on bilingualism and Multiple Sclerosis, in Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism

Aveledo, F.Higueras, Y.Marinis, T.Bose, A.Pliatsikas, C.Meldaña-Rivera, A.Martínez-Ginés, M. L.García-Domínguez, J.Lozano-Ros, A.Cuello, J. P. and Goicochea-Briceño, H. (2019) Multiple sclerosis and bilingualism: some initial findings. To appear in Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism.

To access, click here


Bilingualism has been suggested to be beneficial for executive control and could have positive long-term effects by delaying the onset of symptoms of degenerative diseases. This research investigated for the first time the impact of bilingualism on the executive control, specifically the monitoring and inhibitory control, in individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a neurodegenerative disease which commonly causes deficiencies in the cognitive system. Bilingual and monolingual adults, with and without an MS diagnosis, performed a flanker task in two degrees of monitoring demands (high monitoring vs. low monitoring). Results showed that bilingual MS patients had similar inhibitory control and monitoring abilities to healthy bilingual controls. In contrast, monolingual MS patients showed similar inhibitory control but significantly worse monitoring abilities compared to monolingual healthy controls. We propose that the similar behaviour between bilingual groups suggests that bilingualism might counteract cognitive deficits related to MS, especially with respect to monitoring. The high monitoring cost observed in monolingual patients seems related to underlying deficits in the monitoring and possibly switching, executive control abilities commonly impaired in MS patients from early stages. Our findings provide some preliminary evidence for the cognitive reserve hypothesis in bilingual MS patients

Call for Papers: Conference on Multilingualism (COM) 2020 @ the Centre of Literacy and Multilingualism, University of Reading.


The next Conference on Multilingualism 2020 (COM2020) will be hosted by the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM) at the University of Reading (UK) from the 23rd to the 25th of June 2020.

The conference explores all aspects of multilingualism in the fields of linguistics, psychology, neurology, sociology, and educational sciences. We particularly welcome papers that address issues related to the five CeLM themes: Language and Literacy, Education, Neuroscience, Health and Migration. The call for oral and poster presentations is now open. Please submit abstracts on EasyChair by following this link.

Deadline for abstract submission:  7th January 2020

Outcome of review process: 7th February 2020

Conference URL:

Conference Email:


Publication news 2/2: New empirical paper on the differential effects of bilingual language experiences on brain function in NeuroImage

DeLuca, V., Rothman, J., Bialystok, E., & Pliatsikas C. (2019): Duration and extent of bilingual experience modulate neurocognitive outcomes. NeuroImage. 

To access, click here


The potential effects of bilingualism on executive control (EC) have been heavily debated. One possible source of discrepancy in the evidence may be that bilingualism tends to be treated as a monolithic category distinct from monolingualism. We address this possibility by examining the effects of different bilingual language experiences on brain activity related to EC performance. Participants were scanned (fMRI) while they performed a Flanker task. Behavioral data showed robust Flanker effects, not modulated by language experiences across participants. However, differences in duration of bilingual experience and extent of active language use predicted activation in distinct brain regions indicating differences in neural recruitment across conditions. This approach highlights the need to consider specific bilingual language experiences in assessing neurocognitive effects. It further underscores the utility and complementarity of neuroimaging evidence in this general line of research, contributing to a deeper understanding of the variability reported in the literature.


Publication news 1/2: New conceptual review on structural plasticity in the bilingual brain in Language Learning

Pliatsikas, C., DeLuca, V., & Voits, T. (2019):  The many shades of bilingualism: language experiences modulate adaptations in brain structure. To appear in Language Learning

To access, click here


Recent years have seen an expansion in the research related to structural brain adaptations related to the acquisition and processing of additional languages. However, the accumulating evidence remains to a great extent inconsistent, with a large variety of cortical, subcortical and cerebellar effects reported in various studies. Here we propose that the variability in the data can be explained by the differences in the language background and experiences of the tested samples. We also propose that the field should move away from monolithic bilingual vs. monolingual comparisons; instead, it should focus on the experiences of the bilingual groups as predictors of structural changes in the brain, and also employ longitudinal designs to test the dynamic effects of active bilingualism. The implications of the proposed approaches for the suggested benefits of bilingualism on ageing and patient populations are also discussed.



Updates on upcoming conference presentations

Our lab has a busy but exciting time ahead, as we are due to give seven presentations in several upcoming conferences! Specifically:

-Conference on Multilingualism 2019, September 1st-3rd, Leiden, The Netherlands


01/09, 16:40-17:00, Room LIPSIUS/011: Fraibet Aveledo, Yolanda Higueras, Ariana Meldaña, Arpita Bose, Theo Marinis & Christos Pliatsikas:
The impact of bilingualism on general cognition in patients with Multiple Sclerosis


Jia’en Yee, Ngee Thai Yap, Theo Marinis, Christos Pliatsikas & Doug Saddy:
Processing of Grammatical Morphemes: Evidence for Morphological Decomposition?


-Capturing and Quantifying Individual Differences in Bilingualism, September 2nd-3rd, 2019, Tromsø, Norway


03/09, 10:30 – 11:00, Room E.0101:Vincent DeLuca, Jason Rothman, Ellen Bialystok & Christos Pliatsikas:
Individual bilingual experiences variably affect neurocognitive adaptation

03/09, 12:00 – 12:30, Room E.0101: Sergio M. Pereira Soares, Toms Voits, Vincent DeLuca, Christos Pliatsikas, Jason Rothman, Anastasia Christakou & Ellen Bialystok:
Beyond Structure: Investigating neurochemical bases for bilingualism-induced neural plasticity


Toms Voits, Holly Robson, Jason Rothman & Christos Pliatsikas:
Bilingualism as a source of brain structure variability in ageing: an MRI study


-Symposium: Bilingualism and Cognition (BaC) (AMLaP satellite symposium), September the 5th, Moscow, Russia


13:00-13:20, Room tbc: Sergio M. Pereira Soares, Toms Voits, Vincent DeLuca, Christos Pliatsikas, Jason Rothman, Anastasia Christakou & Ellen Bialystok:
Beyond Structure: Investigating neurochemical bases for bilingualism-induced neural plasticity


Toms Voits, Holly Robson, Jason Rothman & Christos Pliatsikas:
Bilingualism as a source of brain structure variability in ageing: an MRI study

See you there!

Our lab at ISB12 in Edmonton… and an announcement!

I am honoured to have been elected the new chair of the International Symposium on Bilingualism, at the latest business meeting that took place in Edmonton, Canada, last June. The entire steering committee was renewed this time, and I took over from Ad Backus and for the next four years. I look forward to supporting the ISB community and to helping the organisation of this very important conference in the field of bilingualism. I am copying below the official announcement by the outgoing chair, Ad Backus, who I would like to thank for a successful term. See you all in ISB13 in Warsaw, July 2021.

Also, scroll down for some pictures from this year’s ISB, where our lab had five presentations!

Dear colleagues,

At the ISB conference at Edmonton, the Business meeting featured elections for new positions on the Steering Committee. This committee has the task to secure the next venue and to guard the mission of ISB. Christos Pliatsikas has been elected Chair, taking over from Ad Backus, and Merel Keijzer will take over from Mila Schwartz as Secretary. They will be in the committee for four years. Lourdes Ortega, Pia Lane and Tamar Degani will be Consulting Members for the next two years. Normally, there are two such members, but given how votes were distributed it seemed better to include three members this time. The final members are the organizers of the last and the next symposium: Elena Nicoladis and Magdalena Olpińska-Szkiełko. I thank the departing members Tadhg Ó hIfearnáin, Mila Schwartz, Virginia Yip, and Monika Schmid for their invaluable service, and hand over the baton to the new committee, in which we can have full trust, I’m sure. See you all in Warsaw in 2021.

Best wishes

Ad Backus

Our lab in ISB12:

img_20190625_095152Toms talking about the effects of bilingualism on the structure of the hippocampus

img_20190625_161506Vince talking about how individual experiences in bilinguals module brain function

img_20190628_111402Sergio talking about the effects of bilingualism on metabolite concentrations in the caudate nucleus


Christos talking about… well.. bilingualism and the declining brain

IMG_0476 We are getting unnaturally excited by hippocampi recently!dcb23c9a-7f5e-4676-a9f0-a2eff60b8735Vince, Adel, Ludo, Christos, Sergio, Toms- a nice Reading family photo!

e0a8b358-8bc1-4512-af22-61a2e07caef4 The sunglasses gang!

img_20190623_091711Proper diner breakfast to kick start the day!

img_20190628_003137-1… and some karaoke (now a lab tradition) to finish the day!

New methodological preprint on examining the effects of language experiences on white matter plasticity

Luk, G. & Pliatsikas, C. (2019): Using Diffusion Tensor Imaging to examine brain structural plasticity and language experience

To access, click here


Recent advances in neuroimaging methods have led to a renewed interest in the brain correlates of language processing. Most intriguing is how experiences of language use relates to variation in brain structure and how brain structure predicts language acquisition. These two lines of inquiry have important implications on considering language use as an experience-dependent mechanism that induces brain plasticity. This paper focuses on the structural connectivity of the brain, as delivered by white matter, i.e. the collections of the axons of the brain neurons that provide connectivity between brain regions. Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS), a method commonly used in the field, will be presented in detail. Readers will be introduced to procedures for the extraction of indices of variation in WM structure such as fractional anisotropy. Furthermore, the role of individual differences in WM and changes in WM pertaining to bilingual experience and language processing will be used as examples to illustrate the applicability of this method.